Friday, May 1, 2009

Matthew Shepard Bill passed in the House this week

The fact that this bill passed with a large majority in the house is very promising for its passage through the Senate and finally to law.

This bill, as Rachel Maddow (of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show) relates in the following clip, allows the federal government to participate or even take the lead in helping local authorities prosecute serious violent crimes and murders in which the victim was selected on the basis of race, colour, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation etc. even or especially if those local authorities don't want to prosecute because of their own agendas. In short, this is a very good thing.

A not so good thing was that at the vote this week, this same courageous woman who had fought this battle against hate for over ten years in the name of her son, had to listen to the objections of several wing nuts who voted against the measure for reasons beyond reason. One in particular that got a lot of attention was Republican Congresswoman Virginia Fox of North Carolina who stood up against the bill stating that this unfortunate incident (murder) for which the bill is named is a hoax insomuch as the victim (Matthew Shepard) was killed in the commitment of a robbery and not because he was gay.

As the Civil Rights Act didn't usher in racial harmony upon its signing on July 2nd, 1964, this bill when passed, will not usher in the end of hate crimes, but it will make those that perpetrate them think twice before they bully or assault someone if for no other reason than the real threat of legal consequences.

So as we approach the International Day Against Homophobia on May 17th, it is important to realize that although we are fortunate to live in a country where our rights are protected and our freedom to marry whomever we love is guaranteed in our constitution; the reality on the streets, in our workplaces, in our places of worship and most sadly, in our schools is that the more "legitimate" minorities become, the more targeted they are by those whose insecurities are masked by hate.

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